Clemson D-Line Return for a Championship Run in 2018
With a long offseason, there is quite some time before the 2018-2019 College Football season officially begins. There will be a ton of hype and speculation. Many teams will be relying on their strengths as well as looking to address their biggest position or group questions. The Clemson Tigers have one position group that has no questions their Defensive Line. DT Christian Wilkins, DE Clelin Ferrell, DT Dexter Lawrence, and DE Austin Bryant are the playmakers of one of the best teams in the nation.
With a combination of experience, talent, size, skills, and athleticism, these Clemson Tigers D-Linemen are looking to continue their dominance against opposing offenses. Last season, the Clemson Tigers defense was ranked 2nd in the nation in points allowed per game (12.8), 8th in passing yards allowed per game (165.1), 13th in rushing yards allowed per game (112.8), and 6th in total yards allowed per game (278). Each one of the Tigers Defensive Linemen are so effective that they rarely blitz because they create heavy penetration in the opposing backfield.
Because of their impact, the Tigers Linebackers can focus on certain zone coverages or stick to man-to-man coverages instead of having to blitz and leave an area open for the offense to take advantage. The Tigers defense was 1st in the nation in the overall defensive efficiency (90.9).
The Tigers defense was tied for 1st in the nation (with the USC Trojans) in the category of sacks. They accounted for with 46. Each Defensive Lineman has startling stats regarding high numbers because all four are pass rushers and are on the field at the same time. Last season, DE Clelin Ferrell accounted for 66 total tackles (3rd on the team), 18 tackles for loss (led team), and 9.5 sacks (led team). DT Carlos Watkins accounted for 60 total tackles (4th on the team), 9 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks (tied for 3rd). DE Austin Bryant accounted for 50 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss (2nd on team), and 8.5 sacks (2nd on the team). Finally, NT Dexter Lawrence accounted for 33 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.
In the 2016 College Football preseason, a lot of the attention was geared toward DT Carlos Watkins (now in the NFL with the Houston Texans). Throughout the season, Ferrell, Lawrence, and Wilkins (a starting Defensive End in 2016) stepped up as starters, and even Austin Bryant (a backup DE after coming back from injury) provided a consistent and aggressive pass rush. The Clemson Tigers finished the 2016-2017 season with 49 total sacks (3rd in the nation) as well as the 35-31 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 National Championship.
The Tigers were expected to lose Ferrell (a redshirt sophomore), Wilkins (a junior), and Bryant (a junior) as they were expected to go early in the 2018 NFL Draft. All were eligible to go early, and each one was graded to be selected somewhere in the 1st round to early 2nd round. All three decided to forgo the 2018 NFL Draft and return to the Clemson Tigers for the 2018-2019 College Football season. Ferrell, Wilkins, and Bryant have the tangibles and attributes many NFL teams admire, but the Defensive Linemen wanted to continue their pursuit of another National Championship for the Clemson Tigers program.
With Lawrence and Ferrell each three year starters, Bryant as a solid 2-year starter and Wilkins as a 3-year starter and an extra year as a role player, the Tigers’ Defensive Line are one of the most experienced and dangerous units in College Football. The Clemson Tigers are huge contenders to appear once again in the College Football Playoffs and this time, advance to the National Championship game. Their Defensive Line will be the cornerstone of their team by being the most reliable pass rush/run stop unit in College Football.